Outdoor Council

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The next generation is tomorrow’s workforce. Helping young people to experience and handle risk is part of preparing them for adult life and the world of work. Young people can gain this experience from participating in challenging and exciting outdoor events made possible by organisations prepared to adopt a common sense and proportionate approach that balances benefits and risk.

I support this publication for the encouragement that it gives to everyone to adopt such an approach. Judith Hackitt CBE, Chair, Health and Safety Executive Developing confidence and risk judgement among young people is crucial if we are to structure a society that is not risk averse. We need to accept that uncertainty is inherent in adventure, and this contains the possibility of adverse outcomes.

A young person’s development should not be unduly stifled by the proper need to consider the worst consequence of risk but must be balanced by its likelihood and indeed its benefits. Counter-intuitively, the key to challenging risk aversion among leaders and decision makers, is the application of balanced risk assessment.

It is only by objective analysis that the benefits and opportunities of an activity can be weighed against their potential to go wrong. Indeed I feel that the terminology should be changed to ‘risk/benefit assessment’.

For the most part, as previous generations have learnt by experience, it is rare indeed that a well planned exercise leads to accident. It will instead be most likely to bring a sense of enterprise, fun and accomplishment, so vital for maturity, judgement and well-being, which must nearly always offset the residual and inevitable risk.

Our mantra at RoSPA sums up this approach: We must try to make life as safe as necessary, not as safe as possible. This is why I am delighted to support the work of the OEAP and Tim Gill with Nothing Ventured. We welcome the debate this will promote. Tom Mullarkey OBE, Chief Executive, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

Nature Play SA – Learning Outdoors

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Children’s lives today are significantly different than they were just 1-2 generations ago. As a general rule, children today have fewer opportunities for outdoor free play or regular contact with nature. Their physical boundaries have shrunk and they experience less autonomy today than they did in the 60’s and 70’s.

A 2011 Planet Ark Study showed that 1 in 10 children today play outside once per week or less.1 Children’s free time has become structured and watched over by adults. Technology dictates their lives and Australian children of all ages are too sedentary and not physically active enough. Only 19% of young people in the 5-17 year age bracket, meet the national daily physical activity guidelines (60mins/day) while only 29% are meeting the sedentary behaviour screen time guidelines (<2hrs/day).2 Children are losing their understanding that nature and opportunity exists in their own backyards and neighborhoods. Richard Louv, called this phenomenon, ‘naturedeficit disorder’.

The long term impact of nature deficit, is the loss of future environmental stewards. Sir David Attenborough said, no one will protect what they don’t care about and no one will care about what they have never experienced.

The current direction in our schools is to focus on educating children to become the innovators of tomorrow. Ensuring children are exposed to curriculum connected to nature will ensure that the highly capable students of today, will be the environmental stewards of tomorrow.

Our aim in Australian schools is to ensure that all young people are supported to become successful learners, confident and creative individuals and active and informed citizens (MCEETYAA) 2008. We need students who learn through experience, who understand and make sense of the world and their place within it.

John Dewey, a hundred years ago warned of the ‘pedagogical fallacy’ that everything children learn they have to be taught: “Children are people, they grow into tomorrow only as they live today.”


Outdoor Youth Programs

Improving resilience, learning and wellbeing among young people.
A new study by the Outdoor Youth Programs Research Alliance (OYPRA) developed and conducted over nine years has shown camps and outdoor education programs can lead to improved mental health and wellbeing in young people.


The extensive research undertaken by OYPRA will help inform policy and practice, and lead to more strategic investment in Australia’s outdoor programs for learning, healthy living and positive youth development.

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Camps lead to better health outcomes Australians who have gone on school camps know firsthand that outdoor learning programs support personal development and learning new skills.

Why are these findings important? The incidence of mental illness in Australia continues to rise amongst young people. Camps and outdoor learning programs offer a solution to strengthen and support the mental health of young Australians as proven in research conducted by OYPRA.